Close to Haridwar, a place that looks like the last point of earth for normal human being beyond which entry is allowed only for those who possess special power and lifestyle like saints or yogis to venture into, a place which may feel like no space is relevant or existing other than banks of River Ganga, a place where the ancient bridges made during Treta yuga still being its very own identity, a place that resound like the essence of Indian spirituality and it is Rishikesh located in the State of Uttarakhand within Dehradun District, 240 Kms from Delhi.
Rishikesh is another religiously important well known tourist spot surrounded by The Himalayas on one side and River Ganga flowing in its footsteps. River Ganga is special to India and the place of its entry to the human population is considered more auspicious and this is the place it falls on the plain of India from mountains before flowing for 253 kms from its origin at Gaumukh.
No shortage for divinity in a place like Rishikesh if stories make it interesting. As per myth Rishikesh is where Lord Rama and his brother Lakshmana came to do penance for killing demon Ravana in Lanka and they crossed the river Ganga using a jute rope bridge where a hanging (suspension) bridge is in its place now. The place is now known as Lakshman Jhula. A similar bridge with name Ram Jhula is also exists nearby.
Adventurous sport like rafting, backpacking, kayaking, mountain biking, rock climbing, rappelling are added attractions for tourists and many youngsters used to visit this place only for this which makes this area buzzing with tourists and activity always. Rafting is famous here as the flow and waves on ganga river is suitable for it. This place is also known as World Capital of Yoga, may be the presence of Yoga Guru Ramdav in the city. This is also a declared Vegetarian city with Alcohol banned.
We reached around in the second half of the day and it found to be not so crowded as expected. There were two options to reach the other side of the river where the main attractions and temples are situated, either choose to cross the river Ganga by a stroll in the famous Jhula or hanging bridge or try a boat ride under the hot sun, though the boat is covered. Since rafting was out of scope in our itenerary we decided to utilize the boat ride to experience a journey through the holy river Ganga. Water level was high but pleasant too.
Across the river, the not so wide pathways leading to the temples were busy since many people might have came there using the hanging bridge. There were many temples which are situated close to each other. The famous one was Nilkanth Mahadev temple belongs to Lord Shiva and that particular name is associated with another story for the religious scholars for knowing how Lord Shiva is also known as like that too.
Made customary visit to few nearby temples and on return many small shops and stalls were available for those who were interested in locally made antiques and other artifacts. We went inside a shop claimed to be government certified which sells Rudraksha and gem stones. Since ancient times Rudraksha is considered to be a holy bead depicting Lord Shiva’s eyes. Rudrakshas are classified according to the face ranging from one to 21 generally and single face one is very rare and costly too. This shop they showed us a wide variety of beads.
Chains with crystals beads formed out of rock ice which are rare items were also available. They also showed us different types of crystals and one such piece was radiating light rays in a perfectly dark atmosphere for which shopkeepers were specially arranged for such display by making it completely free from lights.
We had our tea and snack from a road side local tea shop before moving to the rest of the places along the banks of river Ganga where another notable building namely Geeta Bhawan is situated. It is a huge complex with Lakshmi Narayana temple, A banyan tree, a museum for religious history with Puranas, Vedas etc and free of cost accommodation facility with around 1000 rooms for visiting devotees. Essence of Bhagavat Geeta and life of Lord Krishna adorn the walls is another attraction for the visitors.
Evening Aarati is conducted in a spot known as Triveni ghat in front of this bhavan. Despite being there early we were unable to get a perfect seat to witness properly this one of a kind of special moment came along the way once in a life time only as many visitors were already been waiting there since long time along with volunteers, Sadhus. It’s a long ritual with priests chanting vedic mantras with 100s of people sitting around with clapping and reciting the mantras in chorus.
Even if not in a comfortable position to enjoy this special way of worship but the loud prayers, specially lit lamps used by priests and volunteers standing on the side of the river was made so much excitement than not to bother about the slight difficulty. As the prayer was about to end it was seen people were slowly lowering the oil lamps keeping in the leaves decorated with flowers allowing it to float on the river water.
Had seen many type of prayers and poojas especially with oil lamps back in Kerala which is also part of rituals in every temple in morning and evening. But this prayer was so unique by watching hundreds of lamps floating in the river amid prayers calmly flowing with that slight oscillation of the river current. It must have brought immense happiness to all those present there by watching how a normally flowing river transforms to a highly divine place blessed by people from different nook and corners of India.
As soon as the Arati was completed every one was in a hurry to leave and a boat ride across the river could take us back to the road for return which was close to the ghat where prayers were held. It was also helpful to avoid a long walk as the day came to an end with sightseeing and picnics and all were seems to be physically and mentally tired. But the thought of using a suspension bridge famous since ancient time was tempted to walk back which was little far away. It was immensely crowded as everyone was walking slowly and seems to be enjoying this special scenery from where one could see the beauty of river Ganga on both sides of the bridge with floating lamps and ferrying boats moving across, mighty Himalayas and temples on the other two sides.
And who would want to miss a photograph in such a scenery which made crossing through the bridge took time appreciating this serene location. Even the lights were not good for photos but the sceneries were amazing with reflections of the street lights and standing in one of the rare structure hanging above the River Ganga was a special feeling the least to say.
Winding up a trip makes a numb feeling most of the times and at many places. The same was here too. Leaving a place with much more options like Beatles Ashram, Waterfall, Rafting etc were unattended and unexplored made the trip look like incomplete to be honest, but the feel of visited one of the most sacred place overpowered the disappointment and promised myself to return back keeping enough days for covering all the important locations.